Dealing with self-doubt as a writer can hinder your creative process and block your freedom of expression. And any seasoned or aspiring author can tell you how harmful this is as you write a book.
When you look at yourself in the mirror, or think of your identity as a writer, what thoughts come to mind?
You might be someone who is graced with the ability to draw your attention to your beauty and strengths. Or you might be someone who is quickly reminded of your imperfections and doubts start to flood your mind.
Even if you’re more of an optimist than a pessimist, you can have attacks of self-doubt.
Here are the steps to overcome self-doubt as a writer:
- Don’t let your inner critic win
- Be aware of your self-doubt
- Avoid comparing yourself to others
- Have a go-to positivity person
- Understand that setbacks will happen
- Learn to build yourself back up
- Celebrate your wins
You may start to question, “Who am I to write a book? Is it even good? Will people even buy it?”
Do you spend your precious time building yourself up with kind words and positive thoughts, or do you harshly compare yourself to others?
If it's the latter, you need to take control of your self-doubt and learn how to stop it in its tracks.
What is self-doubt as a writer?
Self-doubt is a combination of our fears, getting stuck in the comparison trap, and even a lack of self-love or confidence. As a writer, self-doubt is that inner critic that creeps up to tell you that you aren’t good enough, or that your writing isn’t worthy of being published. Self-doubt can be harmful to your creative process, and can cause writer's block, low self-esteem, and overall feelings of unworthiness.
If you’re like me (and most writers out there), you’ll have moments of weakness when self-doubt is that quiet voice in your head telling you you’re not good enough, smart enough, talented enough, or worthy of being heard.
Why do writers struggle with self-doubt?
Throughout history, some of the most skillful artists have been known to deal with self-doubt. Writing is a form of artistry, so it doesn’t come as any surprise that authors face the same struggle with overcoming self-doubt.
Because of the creative and emotional nature of the writing process, self-doubt as a writer is all too common. Authors feel that they aren’t good enough to write a book, and they aren’t worthy enough of receiving attention for their writing. Dealing with such emotional lows takes a toll on an author’s self-confidence and self-esteem, which hinders their ability to create.
In the traditional book publishing and writing space, writers must deal with a lot of competition, rejection, and criticism, which is what self-doubt loves to feed on.
We spend minutes, hours, sometimes even days building up and encouraging other people by telling them how proud we are of them, how wonderful and talented they are, how it’s okay to make mistakes, teaching them how to get back up when they have failed.
So why do we struggle to do the same for ourselves?
Perhaps it’s because our self-love and confidence has been stripped away from a young age, and many of us just never quite seem to get it back.
But don’t lose hope! Although writers' self-doubt will inevitably creep up, there’s a way to shake it off and move past it.
- Related: 5 Ways for Writers to Blast Through Self-Doubt
- Related: Interview with Steven Pressfield, Author of The War of Art
- Related: How Successful Authors Conquer Self-Doubt
Overcoming self-doubt as a writer
In order to quiet the negative voice of self-doubt, you need to hear that you are good enough, smart enough, talented enough, or worthy enough of being heard. And not only do you need to hear it, but you need to believe it.
You deserve to hear it from other people, but more importantly, you deserve to hear it from yourself. And truly believe it.
Put your worries at ease as you read about the power and healing that comes from facing self-doubt.
Take a much-needed break from your writing goals, publishing, or marketing worries and focus on overcoming your mental blocks so you can reach the success you desire.
Regardless of where you are in the process, start your journey today to face self-doubt as a writer. Then bring that love and confidence back with you to your writing and see the effects it has on your life and career.
Below, we’ll share strategies to help you overcome self-doubt as a writer, so that you can do less self-sabotaging, and get back to doing what you love: writing.
#1 – Don’t let your inner critic win
Delete the words “I’m not good enough” from your vocabulary. I, for one, know how challenging this can be, but it is necessary in order to reach your desired success.
Positive thinking leads to positive action which leads to a positive life.
If you want to become an author, you have to learn how to shut down your inner critic.
Sounds simple, yet so many of us struggle with this. It’s a challenge we must work hard to overcome.
That inner critic is a persistent little bugger! It’ll keep trying to cast doubts on you, but don’t let it win. Once you allow it to creep in and you start to believe those harmful, negative words, it’s harder to find your way out.
Acknowledge each thought as it passes by and actively adjust your mindset, words, and thoughts.
When you recognize your inner critic is on the prowl, have a go-to phrase you can say out loud to diffuse that negative inner voice.
Here are some ideas of go-to phrases when you start to self-doubt:
- “I’m better than this!”
- “You won’t bring me down!”
- “No! I’ve got this!”
- “I can do this.”
- “I am smart/talented/skilled.”
- “I’m not perfect, but I’m doing the best I can.”
“What if I fall? Oh, my darling, what if you fly?”
When you focus on the possibility of falling, you’re letting fear and doubt take over. When you start focusing on the possibility of flying, you’re setting yourself free. Free from limitations, fear, doubt, insecurity. Stepping into a world of new experiences, adventure, passion, possibility.
Don’t feed your inner critic by starting to believe those negative doubts!
Your thoughts become your actions and create your life, so be careful to keep your thoughts as positive as possible.
#2 – Be aware of your self-doubt
It’s helpful to know what your strengths and weaknesses are when facing your inner critic. Doubts are like a racehorse charging through the gate when it opens. They don’t necessarily knock on your door. They just barge right in!
Knowing your strengths and weaknesses well helps you spot when your inner critic is causing imposter's syndrome and trying to steer you off course.
Being aware that self-doubt is part of the writer's experience will help you combat the negativity, so that you don't become a writer that quits.
For example, if you doubt your expertise on a topic or why you’re even writing a book, remind yourself that you have plenty of stories to coincide with your experiences in that topic. Your voice deserves to be heard.
In fact, there are many people out there whose lives will change because of your book.
Be mindful of your strengths and talents. Put them to good use. Celebrate them. Believe you are a superstar because you are! I don’t even need to know you to know that about you. If you’re reading this post and have that desire to make your situation better, then that makes you a superstar in my eyes.
Anyone who wants to better themselves and learn every day is that much closer to achieving their goals and facing self-doubt head-on.
Also, be mindful of your weaknesses. Accept that they are something you need to work on. Will it take time to improve? Absolutely! That’s where our skills of hard work, determination, and patience come in. I assure you it’ll be worth your energy and perseverance.
Weaknesses don’t mean you’re not good enough. It simply means you have to work a bit harder in that particular area. Doubts like to cling to your weaknesses, but don’t let them!
#3 – Avoid comparing yourself to others
On those days that self-doubt starts to creep in, decide what task you will work on first and get right to work. The more time you leave for harmful comparison to creep in, it will.
It is unfortunate that we are so caught up in comparing ourselves to others because we have constant access to the digital perception of people’s lives.
Remember that many times the photos we see are carefully selected, posed, and filtered. It might not be the perfect representation of how that person’s life really is.
The same goes for seeing other authors on their journey to their published book and life after their book.
It is easy and exciting to share our successes with other people along the way.
Sometimes it’s more difficult to share your struggles. Yet, that’s the reality of our jobs. There are ups and downs and that is perfectly normal.
Everyone’s journey to success is different. What works for one person might not work for you and that is okay!
Do your best to avoid comparing yourself to others to avoid writers' self-doubt. The path you are on will lead you to where you are meant to be. Believe that with all of your heart.
Some of us are in a constant state of comparing ourselves to others. Reversing this trend will take time and consistent effort. Change won’t come right away. Be patient with yourself.
#4 – Have a go-to positivity person
Life is that much sweeter when you have someone you can lean on for some inspiration and writing motivation.
This person is there for you no matter what the situation is. He or she is your number one fan. Your biggest support system.
That is the kind of person you want to have in case doubts start to make their way into your mind. This go-to positivity person believes in you and is willing to remind you of that when the belief in yourself is fading.
Who lifts you up? Who believes in you? Who helps you believe in yourself again?
Who lifts you up in writing?
Let’s take this a step further. How can you be that person for someone else on their journey?
#5 – Understand that setbacks will happen
Experiencing a setback doesn’t mean you’re suddenly not meant to be an author even though sometimes it may feel that way.
It means you need to figure out the root of the problem so you can properly address it. If you’re unsure how to address it, find someone who does know.
Self-publishing a book doesn't have to be lonely; in fact, we encourage you to find other writers to lean on when the going gets tough.
There are so many incredible authors who have walked this path and know the journey you are traveling. They are willing to help and guide you along the way.
Find an author mastermind community, like the one from Self-Publishing School, which is an incredible source for finding like-minded people who have been through the process before or who are going through it at the same time as you are. All are willing to help and lend support.
Or go to a writers conference, where you can meet fellow writers who understand the author's journey and can support you along the way.
Sometimes writers' self-doubt arises when we are reminded of past failures, which cause us to live in fear. If you’ve failed in the past (which we all have!), you’ve also learned from that experience. This is an opportunity for growth and gratitude rather than allowing self-doubt to win.
Another kind of setback can be caused by the people in your life.
Some may try to question why you’re doing what you’re doing or bring you down or tell you you can’t accomplish something that is important to you. They may not understand your reasons or mindset, but here’s the good news—they don’t have to.
Don’t seek approval from these kinds of people, especially when you’re working toward something you hold so dear to your heart. This questioning can cause doubt to flood in again so be on the lookout for this type of situation.
These setbacks make the reward at the end even more grand! I promise it will all be worth it when you hold your published book in your hands.
#6 – Learn to build yourself up when you experience self-doubt as a writer
Be kind to yourself.
There will be days where doubt takes center stage (or tries to). Create a way to build yourself back up.
Music has a lot of healing power for me so I would suggest you have a few favorite songs you can listen to. Songs that will inspire you, motivate you, remind you of why you are working so hard toward this goal.
Fully embrace this pump-up routine when those doubts and negative feelings start to take over. Sing your heart out and dance around the room. Regain that motivation and confidence you have buried inside.
There will be moments of weakness. We live in a world where critics are quick to tell you what you’re doing “wrong.” Build some tough skin so you are prepared when this happens. Be open to grow from their feedback if they have your best interests in mind.
Facing self-doubt as a writer starts with respecting yourself and thinking of yourself in a positive way. Be mindful of the way you treat yourself.
Build up your self-love and confidence so you can face doubts will ease.
#7 – Celebrate your wins
You are on your way to becoming a published author. Not many people can say that.
Celebrate those moments where you exude positivity, self-love, and confidence. Celebrate when you recognize those inevitable moments of self-doubt and face them head on.
Loving yourself leads to believing in yourself and facing self-doubt. It’s strange how these simple concepts are sometimes the most challenging to achieve. Know what you stand for and be strong in your voice. Believe in yourself and your abilities, even when doubt tries to strike.
Begin facing self-doubt as a writer today so you can reach the success and happiness you desire in your personal life and your career.
At the beginning of my author journey, I knew exhaustion or writers' self-doubt would creep in some days so I was proactive by making this inspirational poster.
Anytime I needed motivation, I read it and was quickly reminded that my mission was too important to allow doubts to take over.
It is my hope that you, too, find inspiration from this poster. Make your own with writing quotes that are meaningful to you and hang it somewhere in your home as a reminder to face self-doubt head on.
By conquering your self-doubt and learning how to stop it in its tracks when it creeps up, you'll have more time for writing and less time sulking.
I believe in you. Now it’s time for you to believe in yourself. You’ve got this!